A Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography

Like everything good in life, it always comes back full circle. I bought my first DSLR when I was 14 years old, and have had a long lasting relationship with my camera ever since. I didn’t dare to step into the realms of film until my mom came home from an estate sale one day with five vintage cameras in hand. 

Film photography is a pretty daunting thing at first, but once you get the hang of it, there is nothing more rewarding than giving something old a new purpose!

So, if you’ve ever been curious on how to get started in film photography this is the post for you!

  1. 1. Choose your budget and work around it

    Film can become an expensive hobby fast. I got my first film camera from an estate sale in my area, and to this day it remains my all time favourite. Ask your parents or grandparents, you never know what they may have in their basement. Otherwise, google is your best friend! You can always find film cameras on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace for a reasonable price. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.

     

  2. 2. Choosing your film

    There are a lot of different types of films and at times it can be overwhelming. My favourite brands are Kodak and Fujifilm for colour, and Ilford Delta for Black & White film. “Film speed” is referred to as ISO, and will be followed by a number (ex: ISO 400). There are many different speeds, but the most common speeds are 100, 200 and 400. You choose your ISO based on the conditions you’re shooting in. Here’s a quick guide:

     

    For bright sunny days: ISO 100-200

    For shady/cloudy days: ISO 200-400

    For indoor pictures: ISO 400

     

    And here are some of my film staples:

    -Kodak Ultramax 

    -Ilford Delta 

    -Fujifilm Superia

     

  3. 3. Theory Is Your Friend

    Now that you know about ISO, there’s a few other facts that will make your life a lot easier. You have probably heard the term exposure before, but what really is exposure? Exposure is a combination of two things: aperture and shutter speed. Aperture (aka “f-stop”) is the amount of light that your camera lets in, simple as that. Different lenses have different apertures; an aperture of f1.8 is considered wide and allows lots of light into the camera, whereas an aperture of f22, restricts light from the camera. Where as your shutter speed is how fast the shutter closes, which also controls for the amount of light. Another thing to note, is that it’s always better to be a little underexposed than a little overexposed. Why? You retain all of the details when you’re a bit underexposed, and lose detail as exposure increases.

     

  4. 4.  Trial and Error

    ou’re not going to get the perfect roll of film the first time you shoot. It will take some time to get all the settings right, and you’ll only get better with time. Find a building or a person you’d like to photograph and start there. Each roll of film only have 24-36 exposures, and you will be surprised how fast you will use it up. This is why it’s important as you improve your skills to really put thought behind what your photographing to get the most out of your roll of film!

  5. 5. I developed my first roll of film, now what?

    Congrats! Getting a good roll of film that you’re truly proud of can be tough. Whether you choose to keep physical copies or get them scanned is up to you. To edit or not to edit is the question now...I would recommend straying away as much as possible from filters. Film already has such a unique look to it, and you don’t want to take away from that. With my film pictures, I usually edit exposure, contrast and saturation and leave it at that. You can edit simply on Instagram or VSCO, or take to Lightroom for more refined edits.

  6. 6.  Find Inspiration

    Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram, pick your poison and go to town! Once you have shot a few rolls of film, you’ll find a niche for what you like shooting and what you don’t. Whether it’s nature, architecture, people or even your dog, if you love what you’re shooting, you’re going to love the outcome. Here are some of my personal favourite instagrams for film inspiration:

     

    https://www.instagram.com/shootfilmmag/

    https://www.instagram.com/etczine_trip/

    https://www.instagram.com/nostalgicanalog/

    https://www.instagram.com/paulhartartist/

    https://www.instagram.com/anamcaaraa/

Good luck fellow film enthusiasts!